Does Agency Status Matter?

The lead agency is Education for school age special education. However, the lead agency varies when it comes to special education for infants and toddlers (Part C of IDEA). Some states may have education, whereas other states may have social and/or health services. For example, the lead agency for infant and toddler services is Education in Oregon. If a child and family moved to New Mexico the lead agency is Health.

The eligibility criteria and federal funding awarded to each state for IDEA-Part C services varies from state to state in America. What does this mean for a family with a child who is eligible for early childhood intervention due to a risk, delay, or disability? It could mean that if they move to a different state they may experience differences in child/family services.

A recent study examined lead agency status in the United States and outlying territories. Specifically, Dr. Torres wanted to know if there is a functional relationship between a lead agency’s status for early intervention and the amount of per capita funding awarded to the state for services after controlling for population size. She found no statistically significant difference in lead agency status and funding. She did find that outlying territories experienced 14 times more funding when compared to the 50 states.  

Dr. Torres also wanted to know more about the criteria used for early intervention (Part C) eligibility determination. She used a formula by Dunst and Hamby (2004) to classify the restrictiveness of eligibility criteria as: (1) broad or liberal (includes environmental and/or biological risk), (2) moderate, (3) narrow (does NOT include environmental and/or biological risk). She found no statistically significant difference in lead agency status and criteria for defining the eligible population.

This study is one of the first of its kind to examine lead agency status as the independent variable. Research is an important endeavor that requires continued funding. A quote by the writer Zora Neale Hurston states, “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” Let us remain curious! Money to do research helps too!

Writer Zora Neale Hurston

Writer Zora Neale Hurston

Source: “Variability in State Lead Agency Eligibility Criteria and IDEA-Part C Per-Capita Budget Commitments: An Exploratory Analysis,” by Christina Torres (2017)